Monday, February 18, 2008

Too Little Too Late or Saved in the Nick of Time?

Scholastic Administrator posted an article on its site called Meet Your School Library Media Specialist. That's where the graphic included with this post came from. A quote from the article really sums up our role as teacher librarians:
The library media specialist is at once a teacher, an instructional partner, an information specialist, and a program administrator, [...]. They collaborate with teachers, administrators, and others to prepare students for future success.”
The article says that South Carolina's Department of Education has released a set of standards for administrators to help them hire and evaluate library media specialists (teacher librarians). They are worth a look and can be found in part in the article. Obviously this state has recognized the value of strong library programs and effective teacher librarians.
After a long drought, our provincial government, backed by the support of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat is beginning to recognize (again) the essential value of a strong school library program and the contributions of excellent teacher librarians to student achievement. A recent funding announcement by the premier coupled with the submission to the government of a draft document outlining the vision for school libraries of the 21st century gives cause for hope for those of us who have tried for years to deliver exemplary programs with little support and funding.
Doug Johnson's posts We have Met the Enemy and Not Your Grandma's Librarian and Joyce Valenza's post The Impact of Ubiquity, the Importance of Brand and Doug's Warning though, makes me wonder if all of this is too late? Are we becoming displaced by computer contacts and literacy coaches? As Doug Johnson states:
Why have school librarians not had a bigger impact on information and tech literacy integration?
I had to respond, and did to the post Not Your Grandma's Librarian. Here's part of what I wrote:
[...] in many places, funding for school libraries and teacher librarians are and have been the first to be affected by funding cuts. Many boards of education haven't had excellent library programs for years so no one knows what they look like. [...]. If a school has a teacher librarian, they are too busy providing prep coverage to classroom teachers to even do the job they are trained to do. That's even if the teacher put into the position even knows what to do because, more likely than not, they have absolutely no qualifications. Or you have a culture of unaccountability for library programs so there is no incentive/pressure for individual teacher librarians to do anything.
I think that our govenment's support is not too late. We need to see this as being saved in the nick of time. This new support is a chance to see this as a personal challenge to hone our technology skills, integrate more information literacy skills, and prove our worth through data collection that demonstrates our effectiveness and help us advocate for our role in promoting student acheivement and helping teachers.
Carol Koechlin (one of the authors of Ban the Bird Units) comments on Joyce Valenza's post:
Why have school librarians not had a bigger impact on information and tech literacy integration? I actually think we have made remarkable contributions to these areas, that is not the problem. The problem is that many teacher-librarians do not gather evidence of their successes and take their stories to where the 'power' and 'money' is.
The OSLA Toolkit has many forms that can help document your practice. We need to get into the habit of doing this and sharing the information with our administrators.
School Library Learning 2.0 has started a new session that is running from December to April. It is not too late to sign up and start working on the 23 things to increase your technology skills. Let's be ready as professionals to step up to the plate when we are given the opportunity to use our skills. Some TLs are doing this already and our students are reaping the benefits.

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